Increasing fiber intake and drinking plenty of fluids can relieve and prevent constipation. Foods such as prunes and fruits are excellent sources of fiber and other nutrients known to assist in healthy bowel movements.
“Constipation is a problem with passing stool. Constipation generally means passing fewer than three stools a week or having a difficult time passing stool,” reports the Mayo Clinic. “Constipation is fairly common. A lack of dietary fiber, fluids and exercise can cause constipation.”
Constipation is uncomfortable. Making simple changes in your diet can help prevent or treat symptoms of constipation. It is important to note that some cases of constipation require assistance from a medical professional. Speak to a doctor if you experience blood in your stool, severe abdominal pain, vomiting or fever, per Medical News Today.
Let’s take a look at foods known to help prevent and relieve constipation.
1. High-fiber foods
Fiber plays a vital role in digestive process. But only 7% of American adults meet daily fiber recommendations, per American Society for Nutrition. According to the Cleveland Health Clinic, adults should aim to consume between 22 and 34 grams of fiber per day. Reaching recommended daily fiber intake can put a stop to constipation.
There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fibers. Both are considered dietary fibers and boast several health benefits. Together, soluble and insoluble fibers regulate bowel movements, soften stool, remove waste from the body, prevent constipation and maintain bowel health, per Harvard Health.
“Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass, decreasing your chance of constipation. If you have loose, watery stools, fiber may help to solidify the stool because it absorbs water and adds bulk to stool,” reports the Mayo Clinic.
A large review asked participants suffering from chronic constipation to increase their daily fiber intake, 77% of participants positively responded to the increase in fiber. These individuals reported relief, significantly increased bowel movements, softened stool and reduced gas.
Prunes are notorious for fueling bowel movements. These dried plums are rich with fiber as well as a sugar known as sorbitol — which has a laxative effect in some individuals, studies show.
“Prunes and prune juice live up to their reputation as foods to help constipation due to a unique ingredient,” reports Johns Hopkins Medicine.
“In addition to fiber, prunes are rich in a naturally occurring sugar alcohol called sorbitol. Sorbitol molecules do not break down in digestion, and when they reach the colon, the body wants to get rid of them, and the reaction can result in a bowel movement.”
In a 2011 study, from Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, researchers asked individuals with chronic constipation to consume 3.5 grams of prunes daily. Over a two-month period, participants reported significantly improved stool frequency and consistency.
Prune juice boast similar impact on constipation. A recent study published in the Journal of Gastroenterology reports prune juice as an effective treatment for constipation. Over a seven-week duration, participants reported “significantly increased” bowel movements as well as improved quality of life.
Probiotic foods such as kefir and yogurt contain beneficial bacteria known to promote gut health, relieve constipation, soften stools and decrease abdominal pain.
“Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains probiotics, a form of healthy gut bacteria that may help relieve constipation and promote regularity,” reports Healthline.
A 2017 review reports that probiotics improved constipation in elderly patients by 10%-40% more than those taking a placebo.
Kefir may also relieve abdominal pain. A study published in the Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology reports that patients who drank 13.5 ounces of kefir twice daily experienced improved quality life, as well as significantly decreased constipation, bloating and abdominal pain.
4. Fruits such as apples and kiwi
Frequently consuming high-fiber fruits such as apples, pears, kiwi and raspberries can promote regular bowel movements. Eating these fruits daily can greatly contribute to meeting fiber intake recommendations. According to Healthline, these fruits can assist the body in:
- Increasing/improving stool consistency.
- Reducing reliance on laxatives.
- Relieving abdominal pain and discomfort.
- Softening stool.
- Reducing stool duration.
“Fruits and vegetables contain indigestible fiber, which absorbs water and expands as it passes through the digestive system. This can calm symptoms of an irritable bowel and, by triggering regular bowel movements, can relieve or prevent constipation,” reports Harvard Health.
A 2018 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition suggests that regularly consuming kiwis is beneficial for “gastrointestinal function in healthy individuals as well as in individuals with constipation and other gastrointestinal disorders.”
Citrus fruits may also be beneficial to those suffering from constipation. Fruits like oranges and grapefruit contain soluble fiber, which can help relive constipation, as well as flavonoid called naringenin, which has a laxative effect on some individuals, research shows.
Oats are an excellent source of soluble fiber — the kind of fiber which dissolves in water. Consuming soluble fiber may promote stools to pass at a quicker rate.
“Oatmeal is a nutritious whole grain that can be beneficial for health. Oats are high in dietary fiber, so eating oatmeal may help someone prevent or manage constipation or difficulty with passing stool,” reports Medical News Today.
Oat bran, made from the outer shell of the oat, might be most beneficial in relieving constipation. A 2019 study found that oat bran helps prevent and treat constipation. It can also decrease gastrointestinal symptoms and aid in healthy digestion.
6. Liquids, to stay hydrated
Dehydration is a common cause of constipation, per Cleveland Health Clinic. Constipation. occurs when the large intestine absorbs too much water from the stool, making it dry and difficult to pass.
Drinking sufficient water every day — the Mayo Clinic suggests 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women — can prevent, ease or treat symptoms of constipation.
“The digestive system needs plenty of water to keep food waste moving through it. Otherwise, the stool can become hard, lumpy, and difficult to pass,” reports Medical News Today. “Drinking plenty of water and healthful juices can help relieve constipation in many cases.”
Drinks such as prune juice, lemon water, apple juice and smoothies may be beneficial in addition to drinking plenty of water.